Along with their stamina, Flat-Coated Retrievers are characterized as intelligent, playful, energetic and usually friendly dogs who originally made good hunters. However, their energy level means that pet Flat-Coated Retrievers need physical and mental outlets, including participating in dog sports such as flyball, Frisbee, hunt and field trials, agility, tracking, and rally obedience that also help them bond with their families. Because they are excellent swimmers, the Flat-Coated Retriever also enjoys retrieving items such as tennis balls and floating toys, and they can be good jogging companions. Flat-Coated Retrievers also bond with people by being service or animal-assisted therapy dogs.
The Flat-Coated Retriever was bred in nineteenth-century England from imported Newfoundland Wavy-Coated Retriever dogs, which were then crossed with Setters. The existence of the breed can be attributed to the efforts of J. Hull, the breeder who initiated the first Flat-Coated Retriever breeding program in 1864. The breed was originally intended to be a working, hunting retriever and would fetch shot birds that landed in the water, however the Flat-Coated Retriever proved to be a natural gundog both in and out of the water. The population of this breed had decreased dramatically by the end of World War II on both sides of the Atlantic, though interest in the Flat-Coated Retriever increased once again in the 1960's. American Kennel Club recognition of the Flat-Coated Retriever took place in 1915.